Big Ten set to bow with small aud

New regional sports network to launch Aug. 30

NEW YORK — A new regional sports net will soon hit the air with few cable subscribers but a more substantial number of satellite subs.

The Big Ten Network said Monday that it will open for business on Aug. 30, and some estimates put the current count of cable subscribers at much fewer than 1 million.

A spokeswoman for the Big Ten Network, however, said DirecTV is on board with more than 15 million of its satellite subscribers.

Mark Silverman, president of the Big Ten net, said the web has signed 75 cable systems, but they’re all relatively small.

None of the top 10, including Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cox and Cablevision, have done a Big Ten deal, and EchoStar, with more than 13 million satellite customers, is also absent.

These refuseniks said they want to put Big Ten on a digital tier so that only people who want to watch it will have to pony up a monthly fee. Big Ten nixed the idea of a digital tier in the eight states encompassing the college athletic conference’s footprint, insisting that the net should be available to all subscribers within the area because of the community significance of the various teams.

The web is jointly owned by the conference and Fox Cable Networks.

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